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Respecting chickens, or chicken profits? 

Lowdown

Let's talk chicken.

I don't mean clucking and cockadoodledooing, but the power of the bird. Most people hear the word "chicken" and immediately think: "Dinner!" Some commercial interests in Georgia, however, think: "Money!" So, they've launched a campaign to put the common fryer on the top roost of the bird kingdom by having it declared the state bird of Georgia.

But, wait — there's already a state bird: the brown thrasher. No problem, says Chris Cunningham, the chief champion of the chicken campaign — we'll just get the legislature to dethrone that little thrasher and enthrone our money bird. Cunningham, who owns a chain of restaurants specializing in (what else?) fried chicken, says that the thrasher is inedible, lazy and migratory. Beside being pretty, he asks, "What's it ever done for the state of Georgia?"

Yeah, if you can't pluck a profit from a feathered creature, who needs it?

In contrast, Cunningham points out that the chicken is Georgia's cash cow (so to speak), with millions of the cooped-up cluckers generating some $18 billion a year for the state economy and providing about 47,000 poultry industry jobs. It's time for chickens to "get a little respect," Cunningham crows.

Well, chickens themselves probably don't think that a daily mass slaughter of their kin and kind is a show of much respect. And before we weep with gratitude about those chicken-plucking jobs, let's note that the overwhelming number of them are non-union, no-benefit, short-term, nasty and dangerous "jobettes" that don't come near providing a family wage or a middle-class opportunity for workers. Where's the respect in that?

Actually, I'm with Cunningham in seeing the nobility in common chickens. He points out that they are the "closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex."

But their nobility stems from their overall birdness — not from them being chopped-up parts to feed the corporate profits of Big Chicken.

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